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#3131207 06/24/21 11:54 PM
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So I've been having the most wonderful (albeit irregular) lessons with this teacher for the past 4-5 years. Though we don't pursue a grade, he's taught me so much in terms of piano technique, and even patience and tact. But it's come to a point where I can finally fully understand the time I need to commit to regularly practising techniques he's taught in order to perfect an entire Sonata, and that's something I can't afford right now because of my full-time job. I've asked to take a pause from lessons for a while to brush up on my theory and basic techniques, and to reconsider my goals in the short and long term. I was half hoping that he'd say something that'll keep me going for lessons, but he agrees that a break might be good. I think we both know I've been rather stagnant for the past few months.

While there's a chance I'd continue lessons with him again in future, and we'll likely keep in touch through other means, the thought of not going for a lesson at his studio the next week made me cry. I've had lessons with more than 6 teachers but this is the first time I'm so sad!

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Originally Posted by Athdara
. . . While there's a chance I'd continue lessons with him again in future, and we'll likely keep in touch through other means, the thought of not going for a lesson at his studio the next week made me cry. I've had lessons with more than 6 teachers but this is the first time I'm so sad!

It's wonderful that your relationship with him has been so close, and rewarding!

Keep in touch with him, if that's possible. And keep playing -- "no lessons" doesn't mean "no music".


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Originally Posted by Athdara
I've asked to take a pause from lessons for a while to brush up on my theory and basic techniques, and to reconsider my goals in the short and long term. I was half hoping that he'd say something that'll keep me going for lessons, but he agrees that a break might be good.

Don't ask for what you don't want.

Do some good thinking about what you do want. So you don't have the time to regularly practising techniques he's taught you in order to perfect an entire Sonata. But maybe you do have some time to practise. Maybe you could work with pieces that are less technically demanding, and focus on musicality and expression? You have been stagnant you say. That means that you have kept your skills. Without a teacher, you are now at risk to lose your skills.

So maybe you should give him a call and tell him you regret saying goodbye?


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What do you mean by "regularly practicing techniques he's taught you"? Are you spending considerable time on exercises and not on pieces? Would it help to change that ratio?

I think you should reconsider stopping lessons, or at least stopping them entirely. Call your teacher and be honest, tell him that you don't feel you can continue practicing the way you have been due to work demands. Even if you have to alter what and how much you practice, you can still derive benefit from lessons (and assuming lessons aren't a financial drain for you).


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Athdara, I totally understand the realization that your schedule doesn't permit you to devote the time you'd need for certain aspect of piano (and/or piano progress).

For me, it's Bach and jazz -- IOW, I would love to play more (and more advanced) Bach, I would love to start working through some of the jazz method books I have. But I also work fulltime -- well, actually, more than fulltime. frown Some days I might only play/practice for 30 minutes.

My solution has been to put those pursuits aside, but continue playing. I do lots of sightreading, and, tbh, most of the time, I'm working on pieces that are at or below my level.

But for me, the important thing is that I am able to continue playing the piano (usually daily). When I do have more time, I work up some more challenging pieces. And I keep some repertoire mostly intact.

Eventually, I'll have more time. And when I do, I'll be able to take off running because I will have been playing the piano regularly this whole time. (Also, in the interim, my sightreading continues to improve, which will be, and already is, a great resource for me)

So my point here is that, whatever you decide to do, keep piano a part of your daily or almost daily activities. See if perhaps your teacher is willing to change the repertoire you work on?


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Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
I do lots of sightreading, and, tbh, most of the time, I'm working on pieces that are at or below my level.

I had quite an expanse of time this past year when I was teaching and horribly bogged down. I was exhausted and barely played at all, but this is exactly what I did! I learned some really easy pieces a couple levels below what I normally learn, and it made me feel like I was at least making some progress. And the daily sight reading is tremendously helpful.

Now that I'm back at lessons again, I feel like that time was well spent. Even if you have to make major adjustments to your playing schedule, try to keep playing SOMETHING. You won't regret it, and you can get back quickly when circumstances change.


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Originally Posted by Animisha
Originally Posted by Athdara
I've asked to take a pause from lessons for a while to brush up on my theory and basic techniques, and to reconsider my goals in the short and long term. I was half hoping that he'd say something that'll keep me going for lessons, but he agrees that a break might be good.

Don't ask for what you don't want.

Do some good thinking about what you do want. So you don't have the time to regularly practising techniques he's taught you in order to perfect an entire Sonata. But maybe you do have some time to practise. Maybe you could work with pieces that are less technically demanding, and focus on musicality and expression? You have been stagnant you say. That means that you have kept your skills. Without a teacher, you are now at risk to lose your skills.

So maybe you should give him a call and tell him you regret saying goodbye?

I almost did, a few times. But I didn't (have not?) because of reasons mentioned below.


Originally Posted by Stubbie
What do you mean by "regularly practicing techniques he's taught you"? Are you spending considerable time on exercises and not on pieces? Would it help to change that ratio?

I think you should reconsider stopping lessons, or at least stopping them entirely. Call your teacher and be honest, tell him that you don't feel you can continue practicing the way you have been due to work demands. Even if you have to alter what and how much you practice, you can still derive benefit from lessons (and assuming lessons aren't a financial drain for you).


"regularly practising techniques"--I mean that in the context of the pieces I'm learning. I'd focus on perfecting a section at a time. Then I'll try to piece different sections of a piece together. I've been doing this the past year or so, and before that, for 2-3 years, we were working on a few other classical and non-classical pieces that were less technically demanding, but to me those weren't as satisfying and I felt I wasn't improving much, and so I asked to learn more challenging pieces (and so the fees increased).

We then started working on pieces from the dip repertoire list. I told him that if I could eventually sit for an exam that'll be a bonus, but I'll just work hard on the pieces and see where that'll take me. I've since learnt SO MUCH, despite the ad-hoc lessons.

But it's come to a point where I feel I can't afford to keep paying (a lot of money) for these (ad-hoc/ irregular) lessons because my very slow progress (the heaps of learning don't always translate to progress in performance) doesn't justify the money paid. Perhaps also because the importance of retirement planning is dawning. A friend told me to be practical and not to "bleed myself dry financially". It is after all just a hobby.

I asked to take a break also because I thought of exploring more regular, less expensive lessons and think that may help progress in the performance aspect (this is just a hypothesis). I've had lessons with the teacher on and off for the past 4-5 years already, and he's always been very kind and tries his best to accede to my requests, but because he has so few teaching slots available, it's impossible to reschedule lessons (especially when I've work commitments, and some family drama). He's not available on the days/ timeslots I can commit to on a regular basis. And even if our schedules fit, regular lessons with this teacher would mean almost twice the amount I might be paying now (please don't ask how much!), so I'm not sure it'll be sustainable in the long run. And as mentioned, my progress and limited practice time don't seem to justify having him as a teacher--I feel another student would benefit much more from that hour with him.

If I start exploring less technically demanding pieces again, I'm afraid the entire cycle will repeat itself. Or maybe I could explore those pieces in other ways--their structure, the musicality, and so on, but I do not know how to look for a teacher like that (by how, I mean I do not know what kind of questions I should ask when interviewing teachers). Most teachers I've met or spoken to seem to focus a lot on simply playing through pieces. I guess I feel pretty stuck now.

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Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
Athdara, I totally understand the realization that your schedule doesn't permit you to devote the time you'd need for certain aspect of piano (and/or piano progress).

For me, it's Bach and jazz -- IOW, I would love to play more (and more advanced) Bach, I would love to start working through some of the jazz method books I have. But I also work fulltime -- well, actually, more than fulltime. frown Some days I might only play/practice for 30 minutes.

My solution has been to put those pursuits aside, but continue playing. I do lots of sightreading, and, tbh, most of the time, I'm working on pieces that are at or below my level.

But for me, the important thing is that I am able to continue playing the piano (usually daily). When I do have more time, I work up some more challenging pieces. And I keep some repertoire mostly intact.

Eventually, I'll have more time. And when I do, I'll be able to take off running because I will have been playing the piano regularly this whole time. (Also, in the interim, my sightreading continues to improve, which will be, and already is, a great resource for me)

So my point here is that, whatever you decide to do, keep piano a part of your daily or almost daily activities. See if perhaps your teacher is willing to change the repertoire you work on?

Thank you, I will definitely continue playing the piano. Yes we've explored other pieces before moving on to the more challenging ones.

I understand the working more than full time bit! That screws up my practice schedule. I try to do 45minutes before I head to work each morning, and on some nights, throw in 30min to an hour. This isn't enough, but there's progress! But it's slow!

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Originally Posted by ebonyk
Originally Posted by ShiroKuro
I do lots of sightreading, and, tbh, most of the time, I'm working on pieces that are at or below my level.

I had quite an expanse of time this past year when I was teaching and horribly bogged down. I was exhausted and barely played at all, but this is exactly what I did! I learned some really easy pieces a couple levels below what I normally learn, and it made me feel like I was at least making some progress. And the daily sight reading is tremendously helpful.

Now that I'm back at lessons again, I feel like that time was well spent. Even if you have to make major adjustments to your playing schedule, try to keep playing SOMETHING. You won't regret it, and you can get back quickly when circumstances change.


Thank you, daily sight reading, and maybe daily sight reading of easier pieces sound like good ideas. I'll do that!

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Athdara, you are in a tough spot--you have the desire to learn, you make the financial sacrifice for lessons, and you make the time to practice, but sometimes life gets in the way and you have to detour on another path for a time. Your biggest danger is getting out of the habit of sitting down to practice or play every day--do try to do something at the piano every day! And keep your eyes and ears open for future lesson opportunities. Good luck and best wishes to you!


P.S. Don't be a stranger here on the forum!

Last edited by Stubbie; 06/26/21 10:16 AM.

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Maybe you could change your priorities to working on a larger range of easier pieces and mastering other aspects of pianism?

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I asked to take a break also because I thought of exploring more regular, less expensive lessons and think that may help progress in the performance aspect (this is just a hypothesis). I've had lessons with the teacher on and off for the past 4-5 years already, and he's always been very kind and tries his best to accede to my requests, but because he has so few teaching slots available, it's impossible to reschedule lessons (especially when I've work commitments, and some family drama). He's not available on the days/ timeslots I can commit to on a regular basis. And even if our schedules fit, regular lessons with this teacher would mean almost twice the amount I might be paying now (please don't ask how much!), so I'm not sure it'll be sustainable in the long run. And as mentioned, my progress and limited practice time don't seem to justify having him as a teacher--I feel another student would benefit much more from that hour with him.

Ok, I won't ask (although you certainly make us all wonder!!) but if the lessons are that expensive, definitely try to find someone who's more economical!

I don't think you need to think about "would another student benefit from this time more" -- don't compare yourself to other students at all. But because you have these concerns, and the lessons are expensive, I think it's definitely time for you to find a different teacher.


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It is not easy to find a good teacher, I would not lose the possibility to take lessons from him.

I would not be concerned about your slow progress, it happens and you just need to continue.

If it is too expensive and you do not have too much time to practice, just take fewer lessons, maybe once a month instead of one each week.

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From your description, there are a few issues I see. I absolutely agree with you that you should look for a teacher who can give you lessons on a more regular basis. It sounds like this is what you want, and it is very reasonable.

2. It sounds like your goals have perhaps changed. Previously, you were unsatisfied with easier pieces and really wanted challenge pieces. Now, you are getting frustrated with challenge pieces (which are undoubtedly much harder than challenge pieces were 4 or 5 years ago). And you are interested in the performance aspect. I suspect that currently, you have much more repertoire that you could tackle than you did 4 or 5 years ago. So to me, how I would think about it is that your priorities have changed, and at this point, try to find pieces that you love but that are also easier than your current ‘stretch’ pieces. There’s a lot of repertoire out there, and working on pieces that you really love (rather than pieces that you think are OK sounding and have technical challenges or are on someone’s list of graded repertoire) can be a real source of energy.

If you are also interested in performance, look for a teacher who will help you find performance opportunities.

I would also reframe things less around the notion of progress and more around the notion of enjoyment/fulfillment. What is it about the piano that you most enjoy? What things do you not enjoy very much? Do you need to rebalance your piano life so that you are doing more of the things you enjoy and less of the things that you don’t? I’m not saying you should abandon things that you don’t like, but at this time when you are really busy with work, it may be particularly important to be intentional about prioritizing the things you really enjoy (so that you continue to stay motivated and engaged with the piano).

I also think I recall another thread in which you expressed similar concerns about retirement planning. It is easy to spend money on things that really don’t bring us much satisfaction. If piano classes contribute to your mental well-being and enjoyment of life, I think it’s probably worth the money to you, although it may not make much sense to many people you know. How much more are your lessons than gym memberships or other such expenditures that your friends have? Is it financially irresponsible for someone to have a gym or pool membership? Maybe in some cases, but I think most of us wouldn’t be passing judgment on people, or using phrases like ‘bleeding you dry’ about something like a gym membership. I would consider piano lessons to be in the same category.

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Athdara: as I see it lessons (and other learning resources) provide us with a kind of capital. We can live off that for a week or a month or longer, depending on what we have accumulated.

Personally I am having a break from lessons but I am using what I have been taught each practice session. Standard points like relax the shoulders, work on the difficult parts especially, focus on the underlying pulse, etc. along with work-specific advice.

What I need at present is a thousand plus hours of practice before I return to lessons for more input.

Perhaps it is the same for you. Write down the main points of what he taught you. Learning from your teacher doesn’t have to stop when you pause lessons.

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Originally Posted by Sgisela
From your description, there are a few issues I see. I absolutely agree with you that you should look for a teacher who can give you lessons on a more regular basis. It sounds like this is what you want, and it is very reasonable.

2. It sounds like your goals have perhaps changed. Previously, you were unsatisfied with easier pieces and really wanted challenge pieces. Now, you are getting frustrated with challenge pieces (which are undoubtedly much harder than challenge pieces were 4 or 5 years ago). And you are interested in the performance aspect. I suspect that currently, you have much more repertoire that you could tackle than you did 4 or 5 years ago. So to me, how I would think about it is that your priorities have changed, and at this point, try to find pieces that you love but that are also easier than your current ‘stretch’ pieces. There’s a lot of repertoire out there, and working on pieces that you really love (rather than pieces that you think are OK sounding and have technical challenges or are on someone’s list of graded repertoire) can be a real source of energy.

If you are also interested in performance, look for a teacher who will help you find performance opportunities.

I would also reframe things less around the notion of progress and more around the notion of enjoyment/fulfillment. What is it about the piano that you most enjoy? What things do you not enjoy very much? Do you need to rebalance your piano life so that you are doing more of the things you enjoy and less of the things that you don’t? I’m not saying you should abandon things that you don’t like, but at this time when you are really busy with work, it may be particularly important to be intentional about prioritizing the things you really enjoy (so that you continue to stay motivated and engaged with the piano).

Hi Sgisela

Thanks very much, I think you're right about how my goals have changed. I didn't think they'd changed until you mentioned it, and you're right about how I should reframe things less around the notion of progress and more around the notion of enjoyment and fulfillment.

In hindsight, I realise how, for a while, I'd no longer enjoyed playing the piano because there was too much emphasis on technique, holding each note for the precise duration of its value, ensuring how each note in a series of chords had to be held with exactly the same amount of pressure, or how each note in a block chord had to sound slightly different from one another, and so on. As much as they're all important aspects of playing, I'd started worrying so much about getting every bit/ beat right that it sucked the joy out of learning and playing.

And I realise that I now am looking to discover not just how a note should be played in terms of technique, but how theory (and so many other elements) could lend itself to the interpretation of pieces and consequently how they're performed, and that's something the most recent teacher couldn't provide. I'm starting to wonder why I can't make sense of a piece and can't play a coherent version of it despite having most of the right notes, note values, capturing the slurs, dynamics, and so on, and perhaps I could do with some advice from another teacher.

You've highlighted and made clear thoughts that were pretty fuzzy to me, fuzzy maybe because I feared stopping piano lessons that to me were the highlight of each week. Thank you for your comments!

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Originally Posted by terentius
Athdara: as I see it lessons (and other learning resources) provide us with a kind of capital. We can live off that for a week or a month or longer, depending on what we have accumulated.

Personally I am having a break from lessons but I am using what I have been taught each practice session. Standard points like relax the shoulders, work on the difficult parts especially, focus on the underlying pulse, etc. along with work-specific advice.

What I need at present is a thousand plus hours of practice before I return to lessons for more input.

Perhaps it is the same for you. Write down the main points of what he taught you. Learning from your teacher doesn’t have to stop when you pause lessons.

That's indeed what I've tried, but each time I went back for lessons after a break, I'd appear to be making even more mistakes haha. Didn't quite work for me, but thank you.

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Emotional, heart-felt post! Ultimately you decided what was best for you. The connection (if one manages to find it) with a piano teacher is one of a kind and to lose it, even temporarily, IS hard.

I wish you well in your studies and I hope the connection gets restored some time in the future :-)

God bless!


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When I ran into time constraints when I was taking lessons I would let the teacher know that I could not really churn through repertoire, and asked if we could instead, during that time, treat lessons more like "guided practice" so that I could continue to work on technique without having to make progress through assigned pieces. It was a good solution for those times I just could not commit to the kind of practice that would show progress week after week, but yet still kept my teacher helping me and working on technical advancement.


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